I first "met" Luciano Costa when I blogged about a hottest bartender contest AOL was hosting in the summer of 2006. I immediately zeroed in on the tall, dark and handsome drink slinger who worked at The Abbey, my favorite West Hollywood haunt. Luciano e-mailed me to thank me for encouraging my readers to vote for him and we've been friendly ever since. I've gotten a kick out of seeing him pop up on a number of reality television shows (most recently on Lifetime's "Gay, Straight or Taken?") and was intrigued when he contacted me about his latest venture, the SoCal Social Club. I caught up with the Brazilian with a brain for business and a bod for sin recently to get all the details.
KIT212: Congratulations on your new venture, the SoCal Social Club. I understand you just had your inaugural mixer and it was a huge success! Why don't you tell my readers what it's all about.
LUCIANO: How can I answer this without giving too much away to my competition? Hehe. Well, SoCal Social Club was created to encourage networking for gay and lesbian professionals in Los Angeles. Through our unique social events and active experiences we strive to provide our community with positive entertainment options, foster culture and arts, but most importantly, unite our community with lasting relationships.
Our events are grouped into 4 categories -- Network Mixers, Supper Club Dinners, the Adventurers Club (fun, active, and challenging activities), and the Culture Club (embracing arts and culture). Each category has its own special purpose, mission and distinct social activities all geared toward the young and seasonal gay professional.
LUCIANO: Yes. For one, I was ready for a challenge; ready for the feeling of accomplishment. But, while tending bar the past few years, I couldn't help but listen to my customers. Seemed like although everyone was tired of the same old bar scene, no one tried to explore something different. I personally had also gotten into a routine of working, maybe going out when I had a free night, or just staying home to watch TV. I was getting bored, yet whenever I found something “atypical” to do, it was almost impossible to get my friends to join me. At the same time many successful gay professionals were complaining of not being able to meet other like-minded individuals for a business or romantic relationship. So I remembered when I lived back in Orlando that there was a social and sports club that organized some really fun activities for the mainstream community. As researched, I discovered a few similar gay organizations around the nation but none in L.A. -- not only the second largest city in the USA, but also with the second largest gay and lesbian population. I was shocked! I quickly started brainstorming (my favorite pastime, I love being creative) and put together a basic business model. With the help with some close friends, I was able to narrow my vision and thus take the plunge into entrepreneurship. It’s been tough. There’s a new lesson around every corner. But as many entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s a thrilling experience. It really makes you feel alive. I’m loving it! It’s an ambitious undertaking but nothing I can’t handle. My 15+ years experience in hospitality and a degree in the field have given me the confidence and drive to make this happen.
KIT212: How many members are there? How far through the Southland does it span?
LUCIANO: At the moment, we have about 300 registered members. We are taking a slow, grassroots approach to our marketing. Most of our advertising is done by personal invitations, word-of-mouth, and the website. This has enabled us to grow at a comfortable pace while also reaching the appropriate target market and providing personal service.
Since we have just recently launched, our events will currently only span the L.A. metro area (Hollywood, WeHo/Beverly Hills, downtown, Westside, the beaches, Pasadena, and Silverlake).
KIT212: Are there plans to expand beyond Southern California?
LUCIANO: Our goal is to eventually expand to San Diego and to create a global network by collaborating with similar organizations. We would like our members who may be visiting other metropolitan cities (NYC/SF/ATL/Miami/Chicago/Dallas/Boston/London/Sydney) to access networking/social events in that city and vice versa.
KIT212: You have perhaps set a record for appearing on more reality television shows than any other person in Los Angeles (wink). Was there anything about those experiences that translated well into this business venture?
LUCIANO: LOL ... maybe so. I almost broke my own personal record last month, but I passed up on the offer. It’s time to focus on a bigger cause. Nothing that I can think of, but the last two experiences ("Playing It Straight" and "Gay, Straight or Taken") along with my participation in the Gay Games last summer in Chicago did translate into another venture. I was so inspired by the multitude of gay athletes at the games that I decided to write/create a gay sports show that not only educates and entertains, but it provides young gay athletes with positive role models, which is lacking in our community. I speak from experience being a closeted gay jock up till I graduated college (my god, it’s been 10 years!!!) . There was no one I related to. Anyway, the treatment is all finished and ready for pitching, but I've been so busy with SoCal that unfortunately the show had to take a backseat. If there are any ambitious producers out there that would like to take this project on, please let me know. It’s definitely not your typical sports show. I’ll open the bidding at $1.000.000 LOL…j/k or am I?
KIT212: What's next for Luciano Costa?
LUCIANO: Saving the world one event at a time… or maybe just getting a Boxer. I miss not having a dog.
One last thing, thank you Kenneth for giving me this tremendous opportunity to speak out to your readers. You’re doing a great job with your blog. I look forward to meeting you personally someday.
KIT212: Thank you so much -- and you're very welcome! It's a pleasure to hear from someone who is making a positive difference in the gay population (as Larry Kramer likes us to refer to us.). Keep us posted and anyone interested in learning more about the SoCal Social Club can visit the group's Web site here. See what you're missing with photos from the group's events here.